Whatever Works
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Whatever Works

3.8 8
Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Begley Jr.

     
 

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Woody Allen writes and directs this "blackish comedy" about an eccentric upper-class New Yorker (Larry David) who abandons his comfortable lifestyle in favor of leading a more bohemian existence. After meeting a young Southern girl (Evan Rachel Wood) and her family, he

Overview

Woody Allen writes and directs this "blackish comedy" about an eccentric upper-class New Yorker (Larry David) who abandons his comfortable lifestyle in favor of leading a more bohemian existence. After meeting a young Southern girl (Evan Rachel Wood) and her family, he discovers that life among the nonconformists isn't quite as carefree as he'd envisioned it to be.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
After a string of films set outside not just the familiar confines of Manhattan, but outside of the U.S.A. altogether, Woody Allen returns to his home country and his hometown with a vengeance in Whatever Works, a comedy about how America would be a much better place if everyone lived in New York. This time Allen casts Larry David in the part he would have played himself -- Boris Yellnikoff, a retired physicist who never misses the chance to tell people he almost won a Nobel Prize. Nowadays, though, he's a highly educated blowhard, spouting off opinion after opinion about the decrepit state of humanity with his friends -- at least that's what he does when he isn't insulting the children whose parents have hired him to teach chess to their offspring. One day, Melody (Evan Rachel Wood), a homeless Southern girl, approaches him outside his apartment begging for money. Against his better judgment, Boris lets her into his home and quickly learns that her parents recently split up. She discovers that Boris' misanthropy is all bark and no bite, and as they become friends, her naïveté busts through his innate cynicism. Soon she's staying at his place, paying rent after she secures a job as a dog walker, and she becomes a more cultured person from spending so much time with Boris. After she goes out on a bad date with a guy her age, the May-December couple realizes they're in love, and they get married. If that were the extent of the movie's plot, this would be just another in a long line of Woody's Pygmalion-inspired bittersweet romantic comedies, but it turns out their relationship is just the first act. The film takes a somewhat unexpected turn when each of Melody's parents shows up to try and rescue her from the city. Her mother, Marietta (Patricia Clarkson), is simply aghast that Melody would marry someone who is not only decades older, but Jewish as well. After hanging out with the couple for a few days, though, Marietta goes on a date with one of Boris' friends, a respected art critic, who tells her she's a talented photographer. Soon Marietta has a thriving art career, and although she learns to love life in The Big Apple, she still never takes a liking to her son-in-law. Eventually Melody's father, John (Ed Begley Jr.), arrives at Boris' door looking for both his daughter and his wife, with whom he wants to reconcile, and his time in the city also changes him in unexpected ways. While it's easy to point out how often Allen returns to the theme of an older man being romantically involved with a much younger woman, this time out he avoids the inherent "ick factor" thanks to his actors. Larry David plays Boris with a pronounced lack of sexuality -- he more or less says he's not interested in sex anymore -- and because of that he never comes off as a dirty old man, just a cantankerous old fart, while Evan Rachel Wood is simply, irresistibly charming, so you can understand why a man of Boris' age would want to nurture her. For longtime Allen fans, it's a kick to have him filming in New York City again, to see his characters walk through the town while pontificating on every subject imaginable. But the downside is that what they say just isn't all that funny most of the time. Sure, there are laughs, especially in Evan Rachel Wood's dumb-girl delivery, but the film's Bush-era red state-vs.-blue state attitude suddenly feels out of synch with Obama in the White House. The biggest problem is that Boris' attitudes and opinions about life are never really challenged -- in fact they are validated by the movie's tidy ending. And, since it's difficult not to assume that Boris speaks for Allen, this gives Whatever Works a disappointing air of self-satisfaction -- bordering on smugness -- that would be easier to forgive if only the whole thing were much funnier. Sadly, Allen the writer/director has become a lot like his most recent creation -- all bark and no bite.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/27/2009
UPC:
0043396324091
Original Release:
2009
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Sony Pictures
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time:
1:32:00
Sales rank:
46,707

Special Features

Closed Caption

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Larry David Boris Yellnikoff
Evan Rachel Wood Melody
Ed Begley John
Patricia Clarkson Marietta
Conleth Hill Leo Brockman
Michael McKean Joe
Jessica Hecht Helena
Christopher Evan Welch Howard
Henry Cavill Randy James
Carolyn McCormick Jessica
John Gallagher Perry

Technical Credits
Woody Allen Director,Screenwriter
Letty Aronson Producer
Suzy Benzinger Costumes/Costume Designer
Brahim Chioua Executive Producer
Ali Farrell Casting
Alisa Lepselter Editor
Santo Loquasto Production Designer
Vincent Maraval Executive Producer
Helen Robin Co-producer
Laura Rosenthal Casting
Harris Savides Cinematographer
Juliet Taylor Casting
Stephen Tenenbaum Producer

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Whatever Works 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
HoustonSmile More than 1 year ago
Typically Allen, this commedy is funny and among the best of his repertoire. True, requires the taste for black comedy, but if you have enjoyed Allen's previous work you'll certainly like this :-)
JCWilkerson More than 1 year ago
Woody Allen is the mastermind director behind great films like Bullets Over Broadway, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and of course Annie Hall. He has made a name for himself writing quirky romantic comedies that go deeper than a romantic comedy deserves to delve, and creating neurotic characters (typically Jewish) that would probably be better off on a psychiatrist's couch than parading around for our entertainment. Larry David is one of the writers, producers, and creators of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and he stars in the latter. In Curb Your Enthusiasm Larry David plays himself as a neurotic yuppie who talks himself into painfully funny situation. When it comes to the pairing of Woody Allen and Larry David in Whatever Works the question you need to ask yourself isn't, "Is it any good," but rather, "Why didn't this happen sooner?!" Woody Allen, coming off of Vicky Christina Barcelona, finally creates a comedy more worthy of his older, and generally much funnier material. With Whatever Works he creates situations that are more realistic, with characters that are more real than he's created in a comedy in a while. His dialogue is just as sharp as it ever was, but at the same time, more so than in a lot of his past comedies, not everyone feels like they're talking "Woody," so to speak. The acting is phenomenal, as should be expected of an Allen movie. The difference in here and in any other movie he's directed that he hasn't starred in is that in Larry David he doesn't get an actor that is trying to be a clone of him as he does with Jason Biggs in Anything Else or Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda. Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe) also stands out as the polar opposite to David's neurotic curmudgeon Boris. And they play very well together, the actor and actress appear to actually have real chemistry in front of the camera which makes you believe that this young girl really wants to be with an old crotchety man like Boris. Naturally, though, there are things that detract from the movie. Some of the relationships don't completely seem to ring true (a relationship between Marietta and her two lovers later on in the movie may strike many viewers as odd), or some people just won't like where certain things fit (how many people complained about the pairing in King of Queens? they won't like Larry David with Evan Rachel Wood). There's also a late homosexual revelation that happens a little too quickly. On top of that a lot of viewers might disagree and find offense with the dialogue that sometimes spits out of Boris' mouth throughout the film. But isn't that one of the great things about entertainment? To make you question, and sometimes, fight for your beliefs? If you happen to like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, or any Woody Allen comedy I highly recommend this. For everyone else: whatever works!
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